Sunday, May 27, 2012 , Updated 9:00 a.m., May 28, 2012
Concert review: Homegrown Music and Art Festival at Main Street Garden Park (May 26)
Homegrown Festival proved yet again that it's Dallas’ best outdoor music fest.
As the sun climbed higher into the Texas sky, rumblings of the third annual Homegrown Festival could be heard near the heart of downtown Dallas. Nestled between the city's iconic skyscrapers in Main Street Garden -- the festival's home since its inception -- music lovers began to gather to celebrate Memorial Day weekend and all things Texas. Bands from all over the state, including a few from Dallas-Fort Worth, performed while local artists and vendors sold their wares.
Hitting the stage at noon, the Bird Dogs -- featuring The Ticket's radio host George Dunham as lead singer -- opened the festival with their brand of red dirt country. As festivalgoers trickled in, the Bird Dogs welcomed them with their easy-living Americana tunes. The band performed new tracks from their newest release, Fool Hearted Dreams, and featured Centro-Matic's drummer Matt Pence and Randy Rogers Band fiddle player Brady Black. Starting the festival off with a little country was the right way to go; the heavier stuff came later.
It was hot, hot, hot when Tyler family band Eisley took the stage. The winds carried their ethereal tunes and melodic harmonies across the garden, piquing the interest of meandering festivalgoers. Although lead singer Sherri Dupree-Bemis' voice is light and airy, it was strong enough to overcome the festival sounds of enjoyment.
Right after Eisley graced the Shiner stage, Denton band Centro-Matic made its way to the AMBHAR stage on the opposite end of the garden. Fans had enough time to claim their spots as the alt-country band kicked off their performance, much to the delight of many festivalgoers who proudly sang the words to all the songs. The band has been around since the mid-nineties and shows no sign of slowing down. The band performed tracks that spanned their nearly two-decade career, including some from their latest musical effort, Candidate Waltz. During the show, they even dedicated a song to late musician Levon Helm, whose 72nd birthday would have been the day of the festival.
Once the sun faded away and ushered in a pretty summer night, it was time for the steady stream of headliners. East Texas sweetheart Ben Kweller kicked off the evening events with his lighthearted rock. With toes tapping and beers in hand, fans sprawled across the lawn and relaxed to Kwellers’ reconizable singles and newer material with ease. His infectiously optomistic tunes exude all of the feelings that summer brings. He called out how his first show was held only two streets away from the festival in Deep Ellum, and reminiscently paid tribute to former Deep Ellum clubs that are no more.
Austin’s own Octopus Project introduced their ambient style soon after -- a frenetic blend of theremin, guitar, xylophone, and pedals like nothing this annual festival has heard. Although their continual pace is quick, the way the group merged the crashing sounds somehow became soothing and calm. Every member, especially guitarist Toto Miranda and front woman Yvonne Lambert, confidently switched between multiple intruments, changing up an otherwise predictable set into a rotating display of impressive talent. Miranda stood out from the mesmerizing group with his pure excitement and racing tempo: Whether he was banging away on drums or rambunctiously picking his guitar, he seemed thrilled to be onstage.
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, another Austin band and the headliners for the night, delivered yet another uncommon style for the open-minded crowds. Their roaring blues pairs a phenomenal horn section with a raging electric guitar that makes way for new-age soul that James Brown would be proud of. Because they fall into such a specific genre, crowds were scarcer than they should have been. It didn’t hurt that the groups’ catalog began to sound monotonous. Regardless, Lewis proved that he knows his way around the guitar and shredded through song after song with blind vigor, interjecting his scratchy vocals wherever necessary.
Homegrown Festival proved yet again that it's Dallas’ best outdoor music fest. The lineup was eclectic, offering DFW music listeners a night they wouldn't find at a local venue. We say farewell to 2012’s Homegrown Fest, already anxiously awaiting next summer’s event.